Why Give a Damn:

Successful leaders know that judgment must be used judiciously. It can retard the growth of your company and life unless mixed with the right amount of love. Mark Albion’s blog series explores the impact our relationship with our father has on how we build our business and life. Each post has a serial and commentary portion. It is hoped that readers will add their own commentary and discuss in the comments.

The author of this post, Mark Albion, a conflicted achiever who climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong, is the New York Times Best Selling author of seven books. He has ridden a horse across Afghanistan and been hugged by Mother Teresa and Ronald Reagan—not at the same time.

If you judge, you can not love.
– Mother Teresa  Tweet This Quote

Commentary on Part Three – Do You Judge or Love?

The funeral did not go as I would have liked. But it was up to me which way I turned—toward the light of love and hope, or toward the darkness of judgment and despair. Moreover, it was never about Marilyn and me. She was protecting him. It was about Dad and me.

I felt my father never used his immense talents to help others, to make the world a better place. I believe he didn’t live up to all that God had given him. God’s gift to us is who we are and our gift to God is who we become.

The brilliant social philosopher Charles Handy had similar issues with his father (though a very different man than my father). He wrote the following (edited) on the death of his father:

My father’s death stopped me, changed my life. Before he died, I was a hot-shot professor at London Business School—writing best-selling books, jetting around the world, lecturing at major universities, consulting for big-name companies. The big time. I was pretty pleased with myself.

He was a quiet, modest man. He lived in the Irish countryside, where he’d been the minister of a small church. I had always been disappointed by his lack of ambition. I had difficulty understanding his reluctance to move up in life.

I rushed back to Ireland for the funeral. Held in the little church where he’d spent most of his life, it was to be a quiet family affair. Instead, I was astounded by the hundreds of people who came on short notice from all corners of the British Isles. Almost every person came up to me and told me how much my father meant to them, how deeply he had touched their lives.

When I returned to London, I was a deeply changed man. Later that year, I resigned my tenured professorship. I stopped trying to be a hot shot. I decided to do what I could to make a genuine difference in other people’s lives. Whether I have succeeded, only my funeral will tell.

The greatest good you can do for another
is not just share your riches, but
reveal to them their own.
– Benjamin Disraeli  Tweet This Quote

Family funerals, particularly for a patriarch, are never easy. They can bring a family together or break it apart. They can bring in the light or the darkness, or as Judaism distinguishes, our “good” or “bad” inclinations (the “yetzer hatov” or “yetzer hara“). We all have both. It’s up to us which one dominates. Which will it be? The one you feed.

Alternatively, I see the dialectic not of “love” and “hate,” but of “love” and “judgment.” I should know: one of my biggest weaknesses is that I can be very judgmental. “Discernment” is important, but “judgment” is another animal. It carries extra weight, often arrogance. As I like to say, there is only one judge, and that judge is “up there”: it’s not me!

This distinction is critical for business leadership and success. No one will love your company the way you do—no one will do things the way you do them. If you are a control freak, you will have to do everything yourself. But if you turn away from judgment to love and discernment, if you focus on people’s strengths and are open to different ways of doing things, your company and life can flourish.

It is particularly effective when this value permeates your company, as it has at Betsy Sanders’ former employer, Nordstrom. Here’s an example, based on Betsy’s words (edited):

If you are coming to help me,
you are wasting your time.
But if you are coming because your liberation is
bound up with mine, then let us work together.
— Lila Watson

Reverend Carolyn Crawford was known throughout Southern California for her powerful sermons. Speculation was high just after this holiday season. Each Monday the sermon topic was posted outside the church. This week: The Gospel According to Nordstrom. Congregants knew upscale Nordstrom and wondered: How could a merchandising Mecca illuminate the Gospel and its lessons?

The church was packed that Sunday. The hushed congregation awaited Reverend Crawford’s sermon. She began by evoking the bustling, luxurious atmosphere of a marbled Nordstrom store during the holiday season. She recounted the sensory delight permeating the store, attended by flocks of shoppers laden with finely wrapped gifts.

Suddenly the atmosphere was shattered. Hunched over, clad in torn clothes and filthy with stench, a bag lady walked through the doors. Reverend Crawford followed her, certain that her presence would be taken care of promptly—as unwelcome as it was incongruous.

The Reverend waited to intervene with security so that she could soften the blow to the woman’s dignity when asked to leave. Though Reverend Crawford saw the stark contrast of this woman to the abundance of the store, Nordstrom employees saw something else.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
what I was walling in or walling out.
– Robert Frost  Tweet This Quote

No one tried to stop the bag lady as she shuffled through the store. She reached the most elegant, pricey Special Occasions Department, where a smartly attired saleswoman greeted her warmly.

Reverend Crawford slipped into the fitting room to eavesdrop. She listened, astonished. The salesperson’s responses to the customer were respectful, not pitying. When she asked to try on evening dresses, the salesperson brought over one gown after another, asking for her opinion. The customer inspected each gown, trying several on. An hour slid by, and the salesperson evaluated which gowns she felt were the most flattering and appropriate for the customer.

This is what we are here for: To serve
and be kind.  Tweet This Quote

The bag lady decided she was finished. She left the fitting room, thanked the salesperson, and walked out. She looked different. Her head was held high, her gait smooth, a new light in her eye.

Reverend Crawford was… dumbfounded. She asked the Nordstrom saleswoman why she had spent an hour with this bag lady, helping her try on thousand dollar gowns—at a store which measures employee’s sales per hour religiously!

The composed Nordstrom saleswoman looked Carolyn Crawford straight in the eye, answering what she saw as a simple question: “This is what we are here for: To serve and be kind.

The Reverend closed her sermon: “Couldn’t we say the same thing about ourselves as churchgoers, as human beings? That we are here to serve and be kind?”

Each time this real story is told, each time shared, its truth grows. Do you judge first and then try to love? Or do you simply love first?

Do you judge first and then try to love? Or do you simply love first?  Tweet This Quote

About the author

Mark Albion

Mark Albion

Mark Albion left his business school professorship to answer his life question: "How can I be a Marxist and still own my own Jacuzzi?" He is now a serial entrepreneur, faculty founder of Net Impact, and author of a series of books exploring meaningful careers, impact entrepreneurship, and success.